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‘I have never been hungry for awards’

Tapan Sinha, the 84-year-old veteran director, was conferred the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award for the year 2006 ending weeks of speculation. Roshmila Bhattacharya speaks to him.

entertainment Updated: Aug 06, 2008 19:15 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya

Tapan Sinha was conferred the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award for the year 2006, ending weeks of speculation. It’s been an eventful year for the 84-year-old veteran director.

Earlier, he was honoured with the ‘One Time Award for Lifetime Achievement’ to commemorate the 60th anniversary of India’s independence.

Two honours in less than a month.. but Sinha who has earlier bagged 19 National Awards and several laurels abroad, is far from overwhelmed. “I won’t deny that I’m happy but at 84, I’m content with what I’ve achieved. My health isn’t good.. I just want to relax now,” he says.

On June 20, the Information and Broadcasting Minister, Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, and the governor of West Bengal, Gopal Krishna Gandhi, visited Sinha at his Kolkata residence where he was recuperating following a heart ailment, to give him the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Will he be able to go to Delhi and accept the Phalke Award from the President this time? “If my health permits I will be there,” he promises. “But right now I can’t even move out of house. I’m still undergoing treatment.”

Respect verdict
Ever since the jury meet ings for the Phalke Award started, four names — Soumitra Chatterjee, Tapan Sinha, Khayyam and Manna Dey — had cropped up as the forerunners. Did he think he stood a good chance? “It was entirely the jury’s decision. And I respect their verdict. Even if I hadn’t bagged the award, I wouldn’t have criticised them. I have never been hungry for awards,” he asserts.

Petty politics
Buddhadeb Dasgupta headed the National Award jury which decided on the Special Award. The jury for the Phalke award included two Bengalis, Sharmila Tagore and Goutam Ghose. Since talk of regional bias has cropped up, did he think these three members campaigned for him? “That’s a very impertinent question,” he snaps. “I’m sure it was an impartial decision. Senior film personalities like Goutam Ghose and Sharmila Tagore would never stoop so low. I don’t want to involve myself in such petty politics.”

Soumitra Chatterjee on receiving the National Award for Best Actor had said that the honour has come too late and Padakhep was not his best performance. “Soumitra Chatterjee has the right to express his feelings. But I’m happy I bagged the awards,” he says.

His repertoire includes Kabuliwalla (1957), Kshudito Pashan (’60) Haate Bazarey (’67), Apanjan (’68) Sagina Mahato (’70), Adalat O Ekti Maye (’82) Ek Doctor Ki Maut (’91), Wheelchair (’94) Which would he pick as his personal favourites? “Only one.. Khaneker Atithi. It moved Mrinal Sen to tears. Even Satyajit Ray complimented me for highly for the film,” he recalls.

Total resurrection
From the current lot of directors, he speaks highly of Sandip Ray and Rituparno Ghosh for their choice of subjects and handling of actors. “Sandip like his father is a brilliant technician. Rituparno narrates stories well. But Bengali cinema needs a total resurrection to regain its glory,” he observes.

In this era of remakes is there any film of his that he’d like to see in a more modern setting? “I have never thought along such lines but maybe Jatugriha, Apanjan and Adalat O Ekti Meye can be remade by mature, sensitive directors without any commercial compromises. The values still hold good today,” he maintains.

However, Sinha wouldn’t want any of his black-and-white classics like Kabuliwala and Khudito Pashan to be colourised? He says it would only “spoil their essence.”